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Mobvoi TicWatch Pro review: Two screens really are better than one

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  • Editors' rating
    7.5 Very good
  • $249.99

Pros

  • Dual-display approach is innovative
  • NFC support for Google Pay

Cons

  • Wear OS feels left behind
  • Overall size

Outside of rebranding Android Wear to Wear OS in March, there hasn't been a lot going on with Google's wearable platform.

The software hasn't received any meaningful updates, and we've seen hardware all but stop being announced. The platform, as a whole, is stagnant.

Read also: Google rebrands Android Wear to Wear OS

Despite no real momentum, Mobvoi is still innovating with its TicWatch lineup.

Earlier this week, Mobvoi announced its $250 dual-screen smartwatch, the TicWatch Pro, is available to order for Amazon Prime members. You read that right. The TicWatch Pro is a dual-screen smartwatch that runs Wear OS by Google. After wearing the watch for roughly a week, I now know the second screen isn't just a gimmick.

Design

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(Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

The watch itself is fairly big, measuring 45mm x 14.6mm, with a display size of 1.39 inches. There are two buttons on the right side of the watch, used to interact with Wear OS.

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The bottom of the watch has a series of pins used for charging in the included charging cradle, along with a heart-rate sensor.

The 20mm watch band uses a quick release for easy swapping out. Included with my review unit was a black leather band, but instead of leather on the backside that rests on my wrist, the band is made of silicone.

Read also: Google launches Wear OS developer preview

My first impression of the TicWatch Pro, besides just how big it is, is that the watchband looks too skinny for the size of housing. After wearing it for a week, however, I've grown accustomed to how it looks and have no issues with wearing it out to a nice dinner, or just around the house doing yard work.

The watch has a myriad of tech inside its IP68 water-resistant housing. There's an accelerometer, a gyroscope, GPS, NFC, a 415mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz), and a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor.

Performance

When I first read about the two screen approach, I was skeptical. I just didn't see how the two displays would work together in a manner that didn't take away from the arguably more important OLED display.

The top display is a monochrome LCD. The monochrome screen is activated when the watch is in standby. The screen is limited in the amount of information it can display, and you can't change the watchface of the LCD display. Information on the monochrome display is limited to the time, date, step count, and a battery meter.

Read also: Google Pixel Wear OS smartwatch: rumored specs, price and - CNET

It's only after you raise your wrist, touch the screen, or press one of the side buttons, that the display, more or less, disappears, revealing the OLED display underneath.

The OLED display looks and acts just like any other Wear OS watch. You can switch between watchfaces with a swipe, read and answer messages, control music playback, and interact with Google Assistant.

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(Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

What's so impressive about this setup is that the LCD display really does disappear when it's not in use.

Instead of using two different displays to achieve an always-on display, where the user can always glance at his or her wrist and check the time, other manufacturers rely on what amounts to a dark mode when the watch isn't in use. And while having a watch that constantly displays the time is convenient, it's at the cost of battery life -- that's not the case with the TicWatch Pro.

Mobvoi touts battery life of five to 30 days when Essential Mode and Smart Mode are used in tandem. On its own, Essential Mode uses the LCD display, forgoing any sort of notifications or more in-depth functionality. Smart Mode, just as the name implies, allows for use of all the smartwatch features one would expect from Wear OS.

Read also: Android Wear needs more than a new name to fight Apple Watch - CNET

You can manually enable Essential Mode on the watch if you want to preserve battery life. You will also receive a prompt when the watch battery gets low, asking if you want to switch to Essential Mode so you don't find yourself with a paperweight stopped to your wrist.

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(Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

With constant Smart Mode use, Mobvoi puts the battery life of the TicWatch Pro at two days. Using strictly Essential Mode, you can expect 30 days of battery life from the watch.

Over the past week of testing, the battery ran out of juice right around the two day mark every single time. Never longer, never shorter.

Read also: How to choose the right wearable device for business - TechRepublic

Considering the LG Watch Sport, another Wear OS device could barely make it through a workday of use, it's safe to say I'm impressed with the battery of the TicWatch Pro.

The Wear OS watch to get?

With no real competition released in recent memory, it'd be easy to proclaim the TicWatch Pro as the best Wear OS device you can get right now.

But the truth is, the TicWatch Pro is the best Wear OS smartwatch you can buy right now. Without any meaningful updates to hardware and software from Google or its device partners in however many months, Mobvoi's at least trying to push its smartwatch offering forward by doing something unique.

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